Monday, February 20, 2017

Learn the Gospel [Sexagesima Sunday; St. Luke 8:4-15]


Jesus speaks to you today, saying,

It has been said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it and for those of us baptized into the ancient Church of Christ, our business is nothing but the past; nothing but Christ Crucified for us. Thus, being a part of the Church is a lifetime of learning.

Dr. Luther said, of the small catechism, that even though he wrote it, he would never have enough time in life to master it, even with two lifetimes. The same is said of Holy Scripture. You may hear the same Bible stories year in and year out, but you will never exhaust the Word and there will always be something new.

So, it is not enough for you to be at Church. You must learn at Church. You. Personally. Just as no one can take your A.C.T.’s for you, no one can learn for you. Of course the Divine Service is a teaching Service along with a life-giving Service of God, but you don’t learn how to apply it, the Hymn of the Day is not on your lips all week, and the Gospel is not in front of all you do and say.

History teaches us that in order for a culture to survive, a fertility rate of 2.11 children per couple must be born. Anything less, and you are a part of a dying culture. The current European fertility rate averages at 1.3. Historically, no culture or country has ever reversed a fertility rate below 1.9. The US comes in at a 1.87.

Muammar al-Gaddafi (Lybia) is quoted saying, “There are signs that Allah will grant victory to Islam in Europe without swords, without guns, without conquest.” The Muslim fertility rate in Europe is 8.1 children per family.

Repent. The seed that fell among the rocks are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing they stop coming to Church and stop learning in Church.

There are two important things here: the rocks and the roots. Geologists have a saying - rocks remember. This is because rocks can be porous and absorb the air around them or they can give evidence of major events like floods or lava flow.

They can also remember blood. The stones cried out for God to avenge the blood of Abel after he was murdered by his brother and still cry out to God for the multitude of martyrs. Jesus says, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling,and rock of offense;” "And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”. Roots can break through stone and God’s Word is like a hammer that breaks the rock.

Thus, if the seed is the Word of God and Jesus is our Rock, then He is broken. And the seed that falls among the rocks is killed. Look at the parable again. This is suffering, death, and resurrection. Here is your teaching moment. The Parable of the Sower; the heavenly wisdom you are to gain from it, is Christ.

There is a stone that heralds life for the entire world. A stone, not so much covered with blood, but guarding it. This stone is the stone rolled away at Easter. This stone, wherever it is now, has the memory of the hand of God grasping it and rolling it away from an empty tomb.

And the root that was hiding away in there has sprouted to full bloom, full of grace and truth, and never to die again. The Gospel of God is preached and binds what the Law of God smashed like a hammer. The Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection awakens the crushed, dead spirit to new life.

Christ is the seed that gets planted among the rocks, immediately grows tall and doesn’t whither away. Christ is the seed that falls among the thorns, and no matter how tight that crown gets, it cannot choke the life out of the Lord of life. Christ is the seed that even falls upon the trampled pathway and does not get stamped, but trips those who would walk past.

Your preaching and teaching heritage is Christ Crucified in every verse of the Bible. The stone hurled from heaven crushes sin and death, but brings new life. The root from the stump of Jesse springs forth in righteousness and salvation. The Spirit of the God-man thusly deals with you.

The millstone is hung around the neck of the old Adam and daily he drowns so that the new man in you would rise to live a new life of hearing God’s Word and believing it. Did the plants have no moisture among the rocks? Jesus provides you with an everlasting moisture in baptism.

Did the plants have no root to hold them in times of testing? The Lord gave the Word which endures forever. Were they unable to withstand the scorching heat of testing? Jesus gives nourishment that strengthens and aids the Body to life everlasting.

Jesus is Lord of the Church, not us, and He provides an everlasting population of it. He is the one to gather the lost with His Word of Forgiveness, seeking them and saving them. Even in the face of apparent dwindling culture, the Church is never empty and will not be overcome by earthly things.

The cup of the Lord overflows. In a backwards way, people losing interest in Church is doing the Lord’s work. America may have become the rocky soil, but that does not mean the Word of God is false. It only means that sinful hearts have grown cold and stony, but the seed is the Word and when the Word takes root, it breaketh the rock.

Such is the constant change of heart for the Christian. Daily the Christian heart hardens against the Lord and against His Church and daily it is broken. Each time th Gospel is preached, sin and death are drowned once again and the new life of the fertile soil arises.

Herein lies the importance and centrality of the Gospel. It is not something you think about everyday so it must be brought to your attention. For it is not just words that bring life, but the Gospel which is the means of Salvation for you, but you must be reminded of it.

The Law surrounds you every day. Whether you see it in morality or mortality, this is what you grasp at. The Gospel is what is handed out in Church. That oft forgotten, oft mishandled free forgiveness of sins is what is needed and the only person handing that out is the Holy Spirit of Jesus in His Church.